“Finish What’s on Your Plate.”

Most of us of a certain age heard this phrase at mealtimes. It grows from the “waste-not” of lean times and is the toted hallmark of good manners and wisdom – neither taking more food than is needed nor squandering precious assets.

Where else have you learned to apply this way of thinking? Does it serve you well?

For the longest time, I erroneously applied this approach to my pay-cheque. Every week, every month, I spent every penny on something – namely not savings. It was a “finish what’s on your plate” mentality: I devoured my regular wages on a routine basis. Yes; it fed my desires (mostly short-term “wants”) but it never really satisfied a deep hunger.

And then, as with the table-top conversation, my perspective shifted. At some point, I realized my resources were not endless and that responsible stewardship of both food and money could actually nourish a greater need. I began to monitor where I spent my money and I aligned my income with my emerging priorities: an education, a family, a house, dreams of travel and an enjoyable career. Slowly the portions changed and gradually the idea of not finishing everything on my proverbial plate took hold. In hindsight, taking stock of my values and long-term goals is what motivated the shift in action; I began to spend and save my money with intention.

Over time, the lessons I learned at my parent’s table made their way into my own dining room. When it came to teaching my children about being accountable with both food and money I stepped back and took a long-view. From the get-go, I supported my children with three piggy-banks labelled “Long-term Savings”, “Spending” and “Giving”. Thanks in part to Barbara Coloroso my parenting wisdom around finances never got rooted in the “finish what’s on your plate” mentality. In fact, at my table the motto was more like, “Try it once; you don’t have to finish it if it is not your taste – but give it a try.” Self-discovery had a seat at the head of the table.

Looking back, I might have recognized this kind of thinking had the potential to feed my own dreams sooner. Today, I often meet clients who live in the fast-food cycle of pay-cheque to pay-cheque and  I see I have an opportunity to offer “feed-forward”: I am inclined to ask if a conversation about values might serve well? Perhaps it is time to linger over dessert and contemplate the bigger picture…


Where in your life do you “finish what’s on your plate”? Is there a time and place to change the menu or leave something on the table in order to find what really nourishes your heart and soul?

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark

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